ADHD 101

ADHD is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors.

These brain operations are collectively referred to as “executive functioning skills” and include important functions such as attention, concentration, memory, motivation and effort, learning from mistakes, impulsivity, hyperactivity, organization, and social skills. There are various contributing factors that play a role in these challenges including chemical and structural differences in the brain as well as genetics.

The diagnosis of ADHD is outlined by the American Psychological Association in the DSM-5 as a lifelong, persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development across time and settings.

ADHD is NOT caused by: poor parenting, falls or head injuries, traumatic life events, digital distractions, video games and television, lack of physical activity, food additives, food allergies, or excess sugar.

ADHD IS caused by chemical, structural, and connectivity differences in the brain, mostly as a result of genetics.

If you have a child with ADHD, this will mean hard work for you the parent.

Remember your child is not neurotypical.

It is not that he/she “wont” but that he/she “cant”. So manage your expectations. Make sure you ask for help and have a self-care program tor yourself. Make ADHD the enemy, not the child.

Some rules of thumb:


  • ensure routine and consistency

  • break down tasks into smaller steps

  • use clocks and timers

  • create a quiet space

  • be neat and organized to set an example

  • ADHD medication can be effective

  • don't punish your child for something they can-t do (neurologically) or something they are unable to control (limbic brain)

  • try not to say "no" too often, instead you can say "yes of course, when you have done 10 minutes of homework" or ask their input "what do you think is appropriate?”

  • learn to anticipate potentially explosive situations and plan for them (set your child up for success)

  • ADHD children get bored very easily so keep them busy with just one thing at a time - for my child, we had a list of activities printed out that he could choose from each time he got bored

  • focus on good behavior and praise for small achievements

  • reward with privileges, praise and activities rather than food or toys

  • change rewards frequently and make sure the rewards are immediate and always followed up on

  • spell out consequences clearly in advance and make sure they happen immediately (maybe have a list of consequences for certain behaviors already made up - you can ask to get your child's input into what they think is an appropriate consequence)

  • try time outs and removal of privileges as consequences for misbehavior remove your child from situations and environments that trigger inappropriate behavior

  • when your child misbehaves, ask them what they could have done instead

  • always follow through with a consequence

  • teach them some basic coping skills to use when they feel they are getting 'out of control'

  • social skills are something ADHD children often struggle with so read about The Theory of Mind and talk to them about body language

  • try role playing different social situations

  • keep to small groups

  • have a zero tolerance at play dates for hitting, pushing or yelling

The FOUR key pillars to Executive Functioning:

  1. Mindfulness Skills

  2. Distress Tolerance Skills

  3. Emotion Regulation Skills

  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

1. Mindfulness Skills

The practice of attending to the HERE and NOW. What is happening within me? What is happening around me? Doing one thing at a time, stay in balance, remain non-judgmental, and be as effective as possible.

Intentionally attending to the present moment in a non-judgmental way. When working with your child this helps:

  • Minimize Interpretation

  • Minimize Assumptions

  • Minimize Judgments

  • Minimize Accusations

  • Minimize Blame

  • Minimize “Attacks”

  • Minimize triggering SAFETY SEEKING BEHAVIORS

Which in turn helps your child:

  • Engage their cognitive structures.

  • Be more responsive.

  • Be less reactive and defensive. When we inadvertently put students on the defensive it places

them in EMOTION MIND (limbic structures) and disengages the cognitive structures (WISEMIND).

  • Be more responsive and less reactive.

  • Build Trust.

  • Pay attention to the experience.

  • Suspend judgments.


  • Improve Self-care.

  • Use senses to self-soothe.

2. Distress Tolerance Skills

Distress Tolerance is about learning to tolerate frustration. It's about being able to deal effectively with stress, drama, and crisis in healthy ways.

When working with your child these skills help:

  • Assess dangerousness and allow you to TRIAGE accordingly.

  • Pay attention to affect rather than Content.

  • Focus on the current problem. (The process, not the content)

  • View the current experience as a learning or teaching opportunity.

  • Obtain commitment to a Plan of Action.

  • Anticipate re-occurrence of crisis.

  • Go with the flow.

Which in turn helps your child:

  • Feel safe to decrease impact of limbic structures.


  • Focus on skills rather than stress, drama, or crisis.


  • Leave soap operas to Hollywood.

  • Demonstrate Willingness rather than Willfulness.

3. Emotion Regulation Skills

Emotion regulation is about learning impulse control. This includes tolerating, managing, and coping with emotions, impulses, urges, cravings, and addictions while not acting automatically or without using cognition and thinking things through.

When working with your child these skills help:

  • Understand emotions of child.

  • Assist them in decreasing the INTENSITY of emotions.

  • Assist them in decreasing sensitivity and vulnerability to emotions.

  • Assist them in learning Impulse Control.

  • Assist them in FEELING, NOT ACTING.

  • Your child gets to know and explore his emotions.

  • Assists your child in building positive emotional experiences.

  • Allows you to review your emotional transference with your child.

Which in turn helps your child:

  • Develop emotional trust in you as a parent.

  • See you as a guide to find a healthy way through difficult emotional content.

4. Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

Interpersonal effectiveness is about being effective in relationships. Helping your child balance investment in relationships, commitment to self, and the ability to communicate effectively.

When working with your child these skills help you:

  • Understand their priorities and how to best meet them.

  • Maintain and improve positive feelings about themselves.

  • Respect their values and beliefs.

  • Meet their goals.

  • Follow their code of ethics or morality.

  • Listen respectfully and let them know they are heard.

  • Know how and when to effectively say “Yes” or “No”.

Which in turn helps Students:

  • Stop the cycle between SILENCE and OUTRAGE.

  • Deal with difficult peers or family issues.

  • Make repairs.

  • Have relationship Thinking, Assumptions, and Mindfulness.

  • Have healthy and effective interactions in relationships.


  • Focus on social learning.

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